Hareton Earnshaw: Character Analysis in Wuthering Heights

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      Hareton Earnshaw is handsome, well-built, intelligent and essentially kind-hearted. He inherits the good qualities of the Earnshaws and the friendliness of his mother, Frances. He is loving and lovable and adores Heathcliff who has almost ruined him.

      Hareton remains uncorrupted in an evil atmosphere, for, although Heathcliff makes him a boor, he cannot degrade his mind and soul. He is as Heathcliff himself says "gold put to the use of paving stones." He bears no grudges, and his forgiveness of Catherine, after she has constantly hurt his sensitive feelings, is wholehearted and generous. He is industrious and responds quickly to encouragement to improve himself.

Heathcliff and Hareton

      Heathcliff brings up Hareton exactly in the same way Hindley had brought him up-as an ignorant boor, confined to the servants' quarters and forced to labour hard on the farm.

      It is astonishing, however, that in spite of Heathcliff's cruelty, the lad has a great attachment for him, of which Heathcliff is also aware. He defends Heathcliff when Catherine criticizes him. Significantly, Heathcliff had instinctively saved his life when as a child, his father in a drunken rage had let him slip from his hands over the railings of the stairs. There is a bond of affection between the two and Hareton and Nelly are the only two people Heathcliff wishes to be present at the time of his burial. When Heathcliff dies, Hareton is the only one who really grieves: "He sat by the corpse all night, weeping in bitter earnest. He pressed its hand, and kissed the sarcastic savage face that everyone else shrank from contemplating."

Hareton's Love for Catherine

       Hareton is jealous of the love of Catherine and Linton. After Linton's death, he shows his interest in Catherine but she rudely rebuffs him always insulting and putting him down. Later however, she begins to love him and takes an avid interest in educating him. The novel closes with the information that Hareton and Catherine are to be married on New Year's day and to shift from Wuthering Heights to Thrushcross Grange.

Heathcliff Alter-ego

      Hareton is in fact Heathcliff's alter-ego. Heathcliff himself recognizes this and is therefore, fond of the boy. The marriage of Cathy and Hareton is a substitute for the marriage which never took place between Catherine and Heathcliff; Hareton who is Heathcliff's spiritual heir paves the way through his own happiness for the spiritual happiness of Heathcliff with Catherine. Significantly, his name is the same as that of the original owner of Wuthering Heights, whose name is inscribed on the building and the surly Joseph is not the only person who is pleased that the Earnshaw inheritance at last comes to its proper owner, Hareton.

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